Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (1966)

Big Ben: Ben Webster in Europe (1967)
B&W/30 mins/Netherlands
Directed by Johann van der Keuken

Songs: "My romance" by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart; "Perdido" by Hans Lengsfelder, Ervin Drake, Juan Tizol; "You'd be so nice to come home to" by Cole Porter.
With: Ben Webster, Don Byas, Michiel de Ruyter, Dolf Verspoor, Jimmy Parsons and Cees Slinger.

Ben Webster (1909–73), American jazz tenor saxophonist from Kansas City, with his tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls), and yet on ballads, warm and sentimental, spent his last days was in Netherlands, where along his sax, an 8-mm camera was his companion.

Johann van der Keuken makes his film, as well as uses some of Webster's footage presumably shot on 8mm. The combination is something cinematically curious, if musically less pleasing for Webster's hardcore fans who want to hear and see a piece uninterrupted by fast cuts.

There is a sequence in the film, when van der Keuken alludes to the beast inside Webster (who, because of his violent behavior after drinking, was nicknamed The Brute) by inter-cutting shots of wild animals in a zoo and the artificial advertising photographs to a haunting close up of Webster in darkness.

Friday, March 26, 2010

On Clark Terry

دربارۀ كـلارك تـِري
كلارك تري در14 دسامبر 1920 در سنت‌لویی ِ میزوری به‌دنيا آمد. برادران او نوازندگان آماتور طبل و توبا بودند. تری از گروه‌هایی که در منطقه میزوری قرار داشتند شروع کرد و تکنیک نواختنش را در روزهای خدمت نظام تکمیل کرد. او در آن روزها با یک دفترچه نت مخصوص کلارینت تمرین ترومپت می‌کرد چون به گفته خودش «صدایی سیال‌تر» از این ساز می‌خواست. پس از گذراندن دوران سربازي، مدت کوتاهی به اركستر لیونل همپتون و سپس چارلی بارنت پیوست و کمی بعد ترومپت نواز ارکسترهاي بزرگ کنت بیسی (49-1948) و گروه‌های کوچک (51-1950) او شد. در 1951 به دوک الینگتون پیوست و 8 سال در کنار او ماند. 1959 به کوئینسی جونز ملحق شد. در پایان دهه 1950 تمام توانش را به كار در استودیوهای نیویورکی گذاشت و در جلسات ضبط زیادی زیر نام خودش یا دیگران ظاهر شد. در برنامه تلویزیونی جانی کارسون نوازنده ترومپت بود. در مجموعه کارهای تری چند قطعه آوازی که در آن اسکت‌هایی (scat) به شیوه آرمسترانگ اجرا شده ، وجود دارند. من جمله قطعه‌ای به نام Mumbles که بعد از تور 1964 ژاپن (با جی جی جانسون) با همراهی تریوی اسکار پيترسون ضبط شد و فروش فراوانی کرد. در 1965 با پيترسون و الا فیتزجرالد به توری در اروپا رفت. يك کوئینتت [گروه پنج‌نفره] با باب بروک‌مِیر رهبری کرد. او در دهه 1970 ارکستر بزرگ خودش را با همکاری بعضی از بهترین نوازندگان نیویورکی به راه انداخت.

در طول آن سال‌ها بیشتر فلوگل‌هورن fluegelhorn را به جای ترومپت می‌زد و تقریباً تا به امروز این ساز را کنار نگذاشته است و یکی از معدود نوازندگان چیره دست این ساز کم طرفدار است. در طول سال‌های 1970 تا 1990 با کنسرت‌ها و فستیوال‌ها و برنامه‌های تلویزیونی متعدد سر کلارک تری شلوغ تر از هر زمانی بود. او در اجراهایی که با ارکستربزرگش داشت خاطرات درخشان دوران سویینگ را زنده می‌کرد و با نواختن در گروه‌های کوچک‌تری که هدایت می‌کرد یادآور بهترین روزهای بی باپ بود.

کمال تکنیکی که تری در طول سال‌ها به آن دست پیدا کرده هرگز باعث نشده تا شور و احساس در دمیدن او به ساز فراموش شود. و نه تکنیک اعلای او و نه احساس بی همتایش در نواختن طنزی که جزیی از شخصیت موسیقیایی اوست را پس نزده و همواره یک اجرای کلارک تری را به معرکه‌ای از توانایی های تکنیکی، احساسات ناب و سرزندگی و شوقی امیدوارکننده به دنیا بدل کرده است. در میان نوازندگان ترومپت تاثیر پذیری او از چارلی شیورز، روی الدریج، رکس استیوارت و دیزی گیلسپی بیشتر از بقیه احساس می شود. خود او از آرمسترانگ، الینگتون، بیسی و پيترسن به عنوان موزیسین‌های مورد علاقه اش یاد می‌کند.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Roots of Charles Mingus

"Imagine a circle surrounding each beat—each guy can play his notes anywhere in that circle, and it gives him the feeling he has more space . . . the pulse is inside you."

—Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog

Bass before Mingus

Until the start of the 1940s, the double bass had played a subordinate role in large and small jazz groups, its part often being restricted to playing simple fundamentals on the first and third beat of each measure, just as tubas had done on early recordings. In the late 1930s, this all began to change. Walter Page in Count Basie's band began to play smooth arpeggios (figures based on the first, third, and fifth of a chord) that blended forcefully with guitar and drums, and Israel Crosby in small groups with Roy Eldridge and Teddy Wilson began to play repeated patterns, or ostinatos, behind soloists. Milt Hinton in Cab Calloway's orchestra, who had trained as a violinist, played elegant bowed solos in pieces like Ebony Silhouette, his improvised lines sounding more like those of a saxophone than most people's idea of a double bass. All these innovations came together in the short but bright career of Jimmy Blanton, who played briefly in Duke Ellington's orchestra before his early death from tuberculosis in 1942.
Blanton provided a way forward for bassists, an approach to the instrument as a full-fledged improvising member of a jazz group that underpinned many of the innovations of the modern jazz of the 1940s. Oscar Pettiford, one of the players to follow in Blanton's footsteps with Ellington, showed how mobile and flexible bass lines could combine with the more fluid drum style of players like Max Roach and Kenny Clarke and Ray Brown developed the style with both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

The Arrival

Mingus appeared on the scene just at the right moment to combine all these innovations with his own musical personality. Those who recognized Charles Mingus's musical gifts realized immediately that he was outstandingly talented. Trombonist Britt Woodman and the reed player Buddy Collette were both childhood friends who encouraged him, even after he was humiliated for being unable to read music speedily enough to play cello in the local youth orchestra. It was Collette who started Mingus playing bass, and who then introduced him to Red Callender, a prominent bassist in Los Angeles who had worked with many high-profile musicians. Callender became a teacher and mentor for Mingus, who in due course ended up playing in Armstrong's big band himself.

The contradictions in Mingus's life carried over into his work. The world of African-American entertainment rubbed off on him from playing with Armstrong and other veterans like Kid Ory and Barney Bigard, but, like many musicians of his generation, he rejected the mugging stage persona of such older entertainers. Nevertheless, he simultaneously acquired a knowledge of and respect for the sounds they made; "our" music, as he called it.

Norvo/Ellington experience

He was fortunate to become part of a group that was designed to show off the bass. Before 1950 he had mainly worked in big bands, including Lionel Hampton's, or on miscellaneous record sessions; but when he joined a trio with guitarist Tal Farlow and vibraphonist Red Norvo, their light, open sound was the perfect setting for his playing. He was with the group only until 1951, but in that short time they were well placed in jazz polls. They also recorded quite extensively, bringing to a wide public Mingus's virtuoso bass playing and some of his unorthodox ideas, including his high-note solos, while Farlow accompanied him with bass lines on the guitar.
After leaving Norvo, Mingus settled in New York City, where his reputation as an innovative and versatile bassist brought him work with several high-profile musicians, including Bud Powell, Billy Taylor and even Duke Ellington, before he get fired by his idol after of a fight with Tizol, the trombone player of the orchestra.


Mingus and drummer Max Roach with the help of Mingus's wife Celia, formed a record company together, called Debut, which preserved much of Mingus's work from this period, including his first attempts at a jazz workshop—a collective that explored composition and improvisation. This was to be his preferred method of evolving his compositions over the years that followed, and he liked to sing or dictate the parts each musician was to play so that they heard rather than read the music. In this way he turned one of his own early shortcomings, the inability to read music well, into a positive approach, even if his regular pianist, Jaki Byard, surreptitiously jotted down the parts so the band could remember them later. As he composed, Mingus increasingly used the piano, and in due course incorporated playing piano into his live performances, interspersed with or instead of his bass playing.
The majority of his groups in the later 1950s into the 1960s used drummer Dannie Richmond, with whom Mingus developed a flexible rhythmic platform for his soloists. Bass and drums moved the beat around, made abrupt transitions into double or triple time, and sometimes dropped out altogether, leaving the brass and reeds to play with just handclaps or shouts for accompaniment.

Workshops, Compostions, Ideas

At the core of the workshop approach to his music, Mingus established two constants: a set of related pieces that changed gradually from performance to performance, and a pool of players who specialized in interpreting his ideas. So, a composition like Fables of Faubus, first written in 1959 and reworked in 1964, developed into Original Faubus Fables in 1960, and New Fables in 1964.
As John Lewis did with the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Horace Silver, Mingus conceived much of his music with the accomplishments of the big bands as a guide to small ensemble music. Then in mid-career he began to re-record earlier works with medium and large groups. Haitian Fight Song, for one, gains much in clarity of line and precision as re-done for eleven instrumentalists and redded II B.S. But the earlier version has stunning bass work which the latter does not, and on Haitian Fight Song the surging, penetrating energy emanating from the leader and his instrument leads some listeners to call II B.S. slick by comparison. He had the kind of ambitions to produce "long" works which date back to the ragtime era, evident in the "stride" men—particularly in James P. Johnson—and which became the basis of real accomplishment in Ellington.
In Mingus, it seems that such efforts did not quite express the man's music. The truest moments in Mingus's Revelations, for instance, are not those in which the large ensemble executes the concert-hall-inspired passages but the turbulent, polyphonic "extended form" passages improvised by the jazzmen. In the same way as Ellington had done, Mingus created music to exploit the musical personalities of his musicians: the jagged saxophone and bass clarinet of Eric Dolphy, the sparring saxes of John Handy and Booker Ervin, the gospel-tinged saxophones and flute of Roland Kirk, the rounded trombones of Jimmy Knepper and Britt Woodman, and the witty, eclectic piano of Jaki Byard.
As the 1960s began, Mingus entered his greatest period of creativity with a series of outstanding compositions. At the same time he took on the establishment by setting up rival concerts to the Newport Jazz Festival, launching a new independent record label, and organizing events that were an uncomfortable mix of rehearsal and performance. The 1962 New York Town Hall event—which is not to be confused with a highly successful event two years later—is generally regarded as a spectacularly disastrous example of these performances, where chaotic organization, a lack of rehearsal, and Mingus's highly charged personality prevented much music from being made.

Mingus the outsider

By the mid-1960s, as a consequence of his volatile behavior, clubs refused to employ him. Mingus was facing financial ruin, and he was also suffering from unstable mental health. Mingus's career was put on hold until 1969, when he once more began to tour and perform. Soon afterward, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, which gave him a degree of stability and public recognition. Until the onset of his final illness—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), a form of muscular paralysis—he toured and recorded quite regularly with his
quintet and collaborated with singer Joni Mitchell (a forgettable record is the result of Joni's slack musical flirtation with Charlie) He also established a big band, for which he reworked many of his earlier compositions.

Mingus Today

He is a standard for modern jazz, and those charismatic musicians who were prominent in mythmaking, as well as making spontaneous music. But the problem is that he is unfairly underrated as a composer, underrated as a fighter and politically conscious American (and now we miss this part so badly!) and underrated as one of the greatest modern interpreters of classic and early jazz. Now these tasks should be taking care of very carefully. In Bird's words, NOW'S THE TIME!

Alyn Shipton, Jazz Makers.
Martin Williams, Jazz Tradition.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Movin' with Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery talks about his early days, his influences and his guitar!

"I started in 1943, right after I got married. I bought an amplifier and a guitar around two or three months later. I used to play a tenor guitar, but it wasn’t playing, you know. I didn’t really get down to business until I got the six-string, which was just like starting all over.

I got interested in playing the guitar because of Charlie Christian. Like all other guitar players! There’s no way out. I never saw him in my life but he said so much on the records that I don’t care what instrument a cat played, if he didn’t understand and didn’t feel and really didn’t get with the things that Charlie Christian was doing, he was a pretty poor musician—he was so far ahead.

Before Charlie Christian I liked Django Reinhardt and Les Paul and those cats, but it wasn’t what you’d call new. Just guitar. For the exciting, the new thing they didn’t impress me like that. But Charlie Christian did. He stood out above all of it to me.
Solo Flight was the first record I heard. Boy, that was too much! I still hear it! He was it for me, and I didn’t look at nobody else. I didn’t hear nobody else for about a year or so. Couldn’t even hear them.
I’m not really musically inclined. It takes guts, you know!

I was 19 and I liked music, but it didn’t really inspire me to go into things. But there was a cat living in Indianapolis named Alex Stevens. He played guitar, and he was about the toughest cat I heard around our vicinity, and I tried to get him to show me a few things.

So eventually what I did was I took all of Charlie Christian’s records, and I listened to them real good. I knew what he was doing on that guitar could be done on the one I had because I had a six string. So I was just determined I’d do it. I didn’t quit. It didn’t quite come out like that but I got pretty good at it, and I took all the solos off the records. I got a job playing just the solos, making money in a club. That’s all I did—played Charlie Christian solos and then laid out! Mel Lee—he’s the piano player with B.B. King—had the band and he helped me a lot.

Then I went on the road with the Brownskin Models and later with Snookum Russell. Ray Brown was in the band at that time. I didn’t realized he was playing so much bass until I heard him with Diz!
was the only big band I went with—1948–’50. I didn’t use any amplifier at all. He had a lot of things for the sextet but he never got to record that group.

I’m so limited. I have a lot of ideas - well, a lot of thoughts - that I’d like to see done with the guitar. With the octaves, that was just a coincidence, going into octaves. It’s such a challenge yet, you know, and there’s a lot that can be done with it and with chord versions like block chords on piano. There are a lot of things can be done with that. But each of these things has a feeling of its own and it takes so much time to develop all your technique.

I don’t use a pick at all and that’s one of the downfalls, too. In order to get a certain amount of speed, you should use a pick. You don’t have to play fast, but being able to play fast can cause you to phrase better. If you had the technique you could phrase better, even if you don’t play fast. I think you’d have more control of the instrument.

I didn’t like the sound of a pick. I tried it for about two months. I didn’t even use my thumb at all. But after two months time I still couldn’t use the pick. So I said, “Well, which are you going to do?” I liked the tone better with thumb, but I liked the technique with the pick. I couldn’t have them both, so I just have to be cool.

I think every instrument should have a certain amount of tone-quality within the instrument, but I can’t seem to get the right amplifiers and things to get this thing out. I like to hear good phrasing. I’d like to hear a guitar play parts like instead of playing melodic lines, leave that and play chord versions of lines. Now, that’s an awful hard thing to do, but it would be different. But I think in those terms, or if a cat could use octaves for a line instead of one note. Give you a double sound with a good tone to it. Should sound pretty good if you got another blending instrument with it.

Other guitar players? Well, Barney Kessel. I’ve got to go for that. He’s got a lot of feeling and a good conception of chords in a jazz manner. He’s still trying to do a lot of things, and he’s not just standing still with guitar, just settling for one particular level. He’s still doing all he can, and that’s one thing I appreciate about him. He’s trying to phrase, also. He’s trying to get away from the guitar phrase and get into horn phrasing.

And Tal Farlow. Tal strikes me as different altogether. He doesn’t have as much feeling as Barney Kessel, but he’s got more drive in his playing, and his technique along with that drive is pretty exciting. He makes it exciting. He’s got a better conception of modern chords than the average guitar player. A lot of guitar players can play modern chords, they can take a solo of modern chords, but they’re liable to leave it within the solo range that they’re in. They’re liable to get away from it and then come back to it, get away from it and come back to it. Tal Farlow usually stays right on it.

Jimmy Raney is just the opposite from Tal Farlow. They seem like they have the same ideas in mind, the same changes, the same runs, the same kind of feeling. But Jimmy Raney is so smooth. He does it without a mistake, like some cats play piano they couldn’t make a mistake if they wanted to. That’s the way Jimmy Raney is. He gives it a real soft touch, but the ideas are just like Tal Farlow’s to me.

And then George Henry, a cat I heard in Chicago. He’s a playing cat. He asked could he play a tune, and so he gets up there, and that’s the first time I ever heard a guitar phrase like Charlie Parker. It was just the solos, the chords and things he used were just like any other cat, you know. And there’s another guy from Houston who plays with his thumb.
And naturally, Reinhardt, he’s in a different thing altogether. And Charlie Byrd. You know, I like all guitar players. I like what they play. But to stand out like Charlie Christian. Well, I guess it’s just one of those things.

My aim is to be able to move from one vein to another without any trouble. If you were going to take a melody line or counterpoint or unison lines with another instrument, do that and then, maybe after a certain point, you drop out completely, and maybe the next time you’ll play phrases and chords or something or maybe you’ll take octaves. That way you have a lot of variations, if you can control each one of them and still keep feeling it. To me the biggest thing is to keep the feeling within your playing regardless of what you play. Keep a feeling there, and that’s hard to do.

You know, John Coltrane was been sort of a God to me. Seems like, in a way, he didn’t get the inspiration out of other musicians. He had it. When you hear a cat do a thing like that, you got to go along with him. I think I heard Coltrane before I really got close to Miles. Miles had a tricky way of playing his horn that I didn’t understand as much as I did Coltrane. I really didn’t understand what Coltrane was doing, but it was so exciting the thing that he was doing. Then after I really began to understand Miles, then Miles came up on top.
Now this may sound pretty weird - the way I feel when I’m up there playing the way I play doesn’t match - but it’s like some cats are holding your hands, and they’ll keep you in there. If you try to keep up to them, they’ll lose you, you know. And I like that."

From Downbeat, February 2009

Monday, March 8, 2010

The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, 1971

امروز یک آلبوم بلوز از هاولین وولف که هزاران کیلومتر دور از خانه‌اش، شیکاگو، و در دوره رنسانس موسیقی بلوز در لندن ضبط شده است را خواهید شنید. نکته مهم این آلبوم حضور اریک کلاپتون (گیتار)، چارلی واتس (درامر رولینگ استونز)، رینگو استار (درامر بیتلز، فقط در آهنگ دوم)، بیل وایمن (نوازنده باس استونز) و استیو وین‌وود (نوزانده همه فن حریف ترافیک) به‌عنوان موزیسن‌های همراهی کننده وولف است که از دوره تین‌ایجری او را به‌عنوان یکی از بت‌هایشان می‌پرستیدند. شنیدن موسیقی وولف، درست مثل شنیدن صدای گرگ در زمان قرص کامل ماه، همیشه تجربه‌ای استثنایی است. این‌بار واقعاً مرد گرگ نمای آمریکایی در لندن بیداد می‌کند.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

William Gottlieb's Jazz Photos, Part 3

 Earl "Fatha" Hines

Claude Thornhill (1908-65) pianist, arranger, composer, and bandleader.

Albert Edwin "Eddie" Condon (1905-73)